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Entertainment // Art & Stage
Rasa Fournier

Operatic Offering from Aina Haina

Elementary kids singing opera, really? That was the consistent response when I mentioned I’d be watching the first run-through rehearsal or “stumble through” of Aina Haina Elementary students performing Aida. Class after class of little ones, in grades K-5, filtered into the cafeteria – the soon-to-be priests, soldiers, prisoners, chorus, off-stage chorus, Egyptian women – in a hum of motion and chatter. When all 139 kids had settled in, Hawaii Opera Theatre’s petite Kristin Stone, the same height as some of her pupils, stood up, waved her hand and an instant hush settled over the room.

The partnership between HOT and the school is part of the school’s Residency Program and HOT’s Education and Outreach program, with Stone as the stage director, Erik Haines as the vocal coach and Eric Schank as the chorus/music coach and pianist for the show.

The piano pumps out lovely notes and the students take their places on stage, their little voices piping up. The tunes are engaging, and then little Aida’s voice comes belting out and, wow! This child has a golden future in song. Her tiny sprout of a “father” empties his lungs, his high voice ringing out. It’s funny to picture him in contrast to, say, baritone Quinn Kelsey, the Hawaii-grown success story. And that’s what’s so beautiful about this scene – dozens of mini opera enthusiasts in the making. You see them basking in the experience, despite a few red cheeks when Aida and her paramour have to hold hands.

In just two months, with two 90-minute rehearsals a week, the HOT team has the students putting on an opera complete with quality singing and drama, elaborate sets and beautiful costumes, thanks to the students and teachers. It’s all an endeavor, but sure worth it, says Stone:

“One of the blessings of Aida is that more children could be cast due to the nature of the piece and the large chorus scenes. But when you have 50-plus excited elementary students onstage ready to go, it can be a challenge. The goal is to channel their boundless energy to the task at hand, be it learning difficult music or blocking a scene.

“The benefits are infinite. This is my fifth production at Aina Haina El and one of my favorite projects that I am involved with at HOT. To bond with the children over an art form that they might not be too familiar with, that they then grow to love, is very exciting. Watching them gain the confidence to sing and act for a packed auditorium and seeing each of them take personal responsibility to learn and memorize their roles in four weeks is extremely fulfilling as a music educator. We try to make it as fun as possible so that the kids don’t even realize just how difficult their project actually is.

By the end of the process, I am just like any other audience member – extremely impressed, but also very proud!”

the TICKET stub
AIDA
When: May 16 at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Where: Aina Haina School cafeteria
Cost: Free
More Info: 596-7372

ALSO SHOWING

The scene in front of Pauahi Tower on Bishop Street is already fun, with the fountains, cafes and general hubbub. Step inside of the tower, go up a floor to the mezzanine level and you can take in entrancing works from dozens of local artists – 103 of the 122 entries submitted by 56 artists, to be exact. It’s the 52nd annual Juried Open Exhibition presented by the Windward Artists Guild through May 25 (Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m.-2 p.m.). There are Hawaii staples: bamboo, coconuts, mangos, ocean and sea cliffs, protea, silversword. Then there are some unique renderings: the captured motion of ocean hitting shoreline in Clem Crow’s Sunset, the pastiche of translucent eggplant-colored and sea-green tissue that make up Dorothy Brennan’s Bamboo Sunset, some crisp digital pieces, and 2-D and 3-D works. A large award-winning work in oil, Beretania St., by Saumo Puapuaga highlights the electric wires and the expanse of evening sky on a full moon night, above the wet, moody downtown night scene below. Jill Butterbaugh took Best in Show with her take on one of the most iconic figures in Island history, Kamehameha I. He’s at once a statue and a man-god in the flesh, both regal and fierce. The shadowing gives him mystery and intrigue, while the textured surface and angled view give the image a sense of dynamism and tension. In this close-up, much happens outside the frame. His arm is raised, but we don’t know whether he’s holding something or where he might be pointing, whether he’s at battle or ruling over a crowd of loyal subjects. He looks down, but not at, those in his presence, commanding respect, perhaps fear.

Grab a cup of coffee and peruse the gallery. You’ll stay and enjoy it longer than expected.

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